Women’s tennis is set to lose out now the Hopman Cup has been axed from the Perth calendar. (AAP: Tony McDonough)
After 31 years, the Hopman Cup has run its race — an exhibition piece deemed expendable as Australia clinched the rights to host a born-again men’s team event, the ATP Cup.
It was always a fun tournament, particularly in its latter years when Roger Federer was a returning star attraction.
The big names of world tennis came, they posed for photos with quokkas and the people of Western Australia grew to love it.
Roger Federer has been making annual trips to WA, which were heavily funded by the State Government. (Instagram: Roger Federer)
But the Hopman Cup became a casualty of global tennis politics.
The world tour and its players wanted the ATP Cup to return.
January was identified as the best time for it and Australia fought off competition from other countries to win the rights to host it and keep the best male players in the country over that time.
Embracing the ATP Cup was necessary to maintain the integrity of the summer of tennis ahead of the Australian Open, and there is no doubt that on paper the new tournament is a legitimate competition.
A total of 750 rankings points are up for grabs and the $22 million in prize money will be the largest on offer outside of a Grand Slam.
Big-name players will still come to Perth
The field in Perth will have to include four of the top 12 ranked men in the world and eight of the top 24.
More players will be in Perth for the tournament than would be for the Hopman Cup.
It is set up to consistently bring elite tennis to Perth and is arguably a better system than negotiating appearance money for players on a year-to-year basis, as was the case with the Hopman Cup.
Before Federer started making annual trips to WA, which were heavily funded by the State Government, the mixed team tournament was just ambling along, so it could be argued Perth is now better off.
Tennis Australia has signed a 30-year contract with the ATP to host the tournament and Western Australia has an initial six-year deal with Tennis Australia.
Cloud over women’s tennis
But there remains uncertainty about women’s tennis in WA.
The Brisbane International will continue as a female event, and there will be tournaments in Adelaide and Hobart as well, but there will be no women’s presence in Perth.
It’s unclear if the likes of Serena Williams will again play in Perth this summer. (AAP: Tony McDonough)
There are longer term plans for a WTA Cup to be introduced and Perth is a potential host for that.
There is a hope an interim top-tier WTA event can be introduced in Western Australia as early as this summer, but it is unclear where it fits into the schedule and where it would be held, with Perth Arena already occupied by the new ATP Cup.
The Hopman Cup was a rich part of the fabric of WA sport and many will regret seeing a unique event such as this leave the calendar.
But let’s save the judgment until we see what this new tournament looks like.